Alpine views

I think this might be the very last of these Throwback Thursday posts. Coming up with a theme for these posts has been fun, and sometimes a little challenging. Today’s link had me scratching my head for a few moments until I realized the connection: both photos were taken in one of my favourite places, the alpine.

1. TBT to a beautiful Thursday in September 2012 on the Skyline trail in Jasper, the view south over Curator Lake from the Notch

First up is this stunning view from the Notch, the highest point along the 44-km Skyline Trail. What can’t be seen is the howling gale that greeted us as we came over the rise. We were oh-so glad of the sunshine after the previous day’s miserable cold rain, and the view was as breathtaking as the wind, but the downside to the alpine is the lack of shelter, and we were certainly feeling that as we huddled down in a group to eat our lunch.

The wind was a constant companion for the next hour or so but it was worth it for the never-ending views along the ridgeline of Amber Mountain. Definitely an awesome hike, and one I would love to repeat.

2. Some colour for a grey day – my favourite flower, a glacier lily, taken a couple of years ago on the trail to Zoa Peak.

Some colour for a grey day – my favourite flower, a glacier lily, taken a couple of years ago on the trail to Zoa Peak. For #LeaveNoTraceTuesday I'll add that getting these kinds of flower photos often means going off-trail, a practice that requires a lot of care. It's also a time when even leaving footprints is not appropriate in case in invites the less careful – I've witnessed many a hiker simply not looking where they're putting their feet. On busy trails I'll simply not bother and just be content to admire the view from afar or use a long zoom lens 🙂 #zoapeak #coquihalla #alpine #wildflowers #glacierlily #erythroniumgrandiflorum #lnt #leavenotrace #beautifulbritishcolumbia #hiking #mec #mecnation #rei1440project

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The second photo is of a subject that entices me up into the alpine as soon as the snow has melted: the humble glacier lily. Every year I like to go in search of them just as they poke up through the snow, and this year will probably be no different. The trick is to find somewhere new each time, and I’ll need to start thinking about that soon as we’re already in May!

This photo was originally posted on a “Leave No Trace Tuesday”, so I’ll include the comment I made at the time. Getting these kinds of flower photos often means going off-trail, a practice that requires a lot of care. It’s also a time when even leaving footprints is not appropriate in case in invites the less careful – I’ve witnessed many a hiker simply not looking where they’re putting their feet. On busy trails I’ll simply not bother and just be content to admire the view from afar or use a long zoom lens.

I’m always wary of stepping off the trail in popular areas in case someone sees me and interprets that as a green light to wander wherever they please. What they don’t see is the extreme care I take to step through the flowers, sticking to rocks where I can and bare dirt otherwise as much as possible. If I can’t identify a way through then I just don’t go and I’ll find an alternative flower to photograph.

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Local mountains

I’m getting near the end of all my remaining unblogged Instagram photos for Throwback-Thursday and it’s getting harder to come up with themed posts. In the absence of any other connection, here’s a couple of winter-time photos of and/or from the North Shore mountains.

1. Crown Mountain in its winter coat.

Crown Mountain is always a stunning sight in the winter; it has that archetypal jagged mountain profile regardless of the angle of view. I think I’ve taken more photos of Crown Mountain than any other single peak, mostly because we can see it from our apartment. This day we were out for a walk in Stanley Park and the clouds hung low in the Capilano River valley. This worked in my favour as it reduced the amount of featureless greenery that would otherwise have made up some fraction of the photo. Instead, the photo is neatly divided into four: forest, cloud, mountain, and sky. It’s not as even a division as my eye would like but nature is rarely that accommodating.

2. Throwback-Thursday to one year ago today – a sunny hike up Mt Seymour with my friend Steve.

I have Steve to thank for founding Wanderung which more-or-less single-handedly made our settling-in period in Vancouver so much easier and enjoyable. We’ve met many of our friends through the hiking group, and have been to some incredible places in BC as a result. To my surprise, I’m now helping run the society and mailing list, and have been putting out a short newsletter every week for nearly 7 years. How time flies!

The first time I visited Mt Seymour was a snowshoeing trip (coincidentally, organized by Steve), way back in January 2005 and it’s one of my favourite winter destinations with its superb views in all directions. As an example, the mountain on the horizon in this photo is Mt Garibaldi some 50 km to the north. We didn’t need snowshoes on this day as the snow was well compacted, though hats were definitely a wise move – the summit post thought so too!

VanCity Views IV

1. Snowline. The North Shore mountains looking pretty this morning.

The morning after a chilly rainy night shows up the lovely snowline across the flanks of Crown and Grouse Mountains. I took this photo from the roof of the Mountain Equipment Coop building on Broadway. I didn’t notice it at the time, but I really like how the snowline angles upwards as it gets nearer to the water, perhaps the air stayed cooler in the Capilano valley?

2. Winter sunset

I love seeing this boundary between night and day: the sun has set on the city but the mountain tops are still bathed in lovely warm light. Such a contrast compared with the previous photo! I’d rather be up in the mountains in this light – watching the snow change colour is amazing – but I’ll settle for a view over the water and the city.

Here, along the foreshore just west of Kits Pool, is one of my favourite spots to catch the sunset in the winter with its unobstructed view across English Bay and the peaks of Crown and Grouse Mountains, Mt Fromme, and the ridgeline of Mt Seymour beyond.

3. Morning view on day 3 of my Walk To Work Week 🙂

At the time I took this photo I was working about 4.5 km from home. While it was an easy bike ride, I’m not a fan of riding in the winter, so I thought I’d try walking it. To my surprise I found myself really enjoying the walk (on dry days) and could make it door-to-door in about 45 minutes. There’s a tiny park along the way called Choklit Park – and yes, the name is associated with chocolate – with a nice view over towards the high-rises of Yaletown and the mountains beyond. Now if only I had the Photoshop skills to remove that straggly little branch in the top right corner…

4. I’m not a morning person but I love mornings – good morning from a frosty Kits Beach

I remember taking a photo of Kits Beach covered in frost way back in 2009 and wanted to repeat that shot. It took until early 2016 for that to happen! Things I like about this photo include the shape of the beach, which is close to a classic “S” curve, the strip of sand forming a pathway between the silvery-blue water and frost, and the mist behind the city high-rises. It’s a chillier-looking photo than my earlier attempt – I guess I must have sooner after sunrise than in 2009 which had some nice early-morning sunshine lighting up the frost.

So with that I think I’m caught up on my backlog of miscellaneous Vancouver shots for now. I wonder what next week’s Throwback Thursday has in store?

Late season backpacking

Spring is getting nearer and our thoughts turn to backpacking options for the summer. But first, a quick throwback to a couple of trips from September 2015…

1. All set for the night – camping in the Barkley Valley

We’d heard many good things about this area and we were not disappointed. Well, except that our plan was to camp up in the alpine by the gorgeous lakes and not down here in the valley. However, we inadvertently made the right choice: it was so cold up at the lakes that we were much better off here!

See those slopes? They’re covered with wildflowers in the summer, which means that I have no choice but to return another day to see them in bloom.

2. Gorgeous green, lower Twin Lake

The colour of this lake completely took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting such a gorgeous glacial green lake as no previous photo I’d seen showed that colour. Given that the lake wasn’t this colour on our return last year, I’m guessing that it was due to the melting snow washing lots of fine particles into the water.

Snow? What snow? According to the hunters who stayed in the cabin next to our tent, a weekday snowstorm had dropped about 50-60 cm of snow in the valley! In our planning for this trip we hadn’t reckoned on that, so it was a good thing that it all melted before we arrived. And it contributed to the beauty of this lake, especially in contrast against the red rocks shown in the photo below.

The upper lake is just beyond the pass at the top of this photo. There’s a sporadic trail that leads up through a lovely meadow, across the aptly-named Crystal Creek which tumbles down the waterfall seen across the lake, and over some boulders to a more spacious bowl. A little less dramatic than this, perhaps, but I liked it because it really reminded me of the Lake District in the UK.

3. Steep slopes around lower Twin Lake. Glad I rediscovered this photo as it doesn’t work as a square.

When I joined Instagram in mid-2015, it was limited to square photos, a feature I actually liked because it forced me to think differently about framing and cropping. Square photos can be exceptionally effective and are ideal for scenes with symmetry or strong geometry. Of course, most of the photos Maria and I take don’t work for Instagram as we try and fill the frame with our compositions. However, it was only a few months into my Instagram experiment that they started allowing alternative aspect ratios, which led me to re-examine a few photos. I was really pleased to find that I could squeeze this one onto the new format as it was no good as a square crop. It still loses a little of its presence, but retains enough, in my mind, to be quite effective.

Ideally I would have taken the scene from a greater distance to permit a square crop, but that’s really hard to do when you’ve just arrived at a new location. Furthermore, the scale of this area overwhelmed me: none of the photos I’d seen before had come anywhere near capturing the scale of the lakes. It’s really quite spectacular, and I posted a few photos from our revisit back in September 2017.

For more photos from 2015, take a look at our set on Flickr, or read some more about that trip on my hiking blog.

4. End of the day in Illal Meadows, Jim Kelly and Coquihalla Mountain in silhouette

As ever, a still photograph conveys nothing of what it was actually like to be in spot it was taken. What can’t be shown is the freezing cold, howling wind that caused us to rethink our attempt on Jim Kelly Peak. We were so very grateful for the shelter of the trees.

Despite being taken with my phone, I’m quite happy with the appearance of the shadows which I had to lift quite a bit. The colours on the side of Jim Kelly are a bit garish and the shadows are a bit blue, but overall it works to my eye. What I like most about this photo is the curve of the creek, which stands out clearly reflecting the blue sky.

Funnily enough, I didn’t take this scene with either of our SLRs as we were filtering water at the time, but my phone was in my pocket and as ever it’s the camera that’s on you that counts. However, I did take it the following morning. Alas the light was not as good… A lesson to learn there!

Icy blue

This week’s Throwback-Thursday theme is ice. Perhaps my favourite topics in physical geography is glaciology (volcanoes and meteorology come a close second) and so it was with some delight that I realized I could get close-up views of glacier while hiking in BC and Alberta. I had visited Chamonix for a conference (wow – 20 years ago now!) and had enjoyed seeing the snowy icecap of Mt Blanc and the Mer de Glace, but they were still quite distant. What I wanted was to be able to touch that blue ice, without necessarily getting into mountaineering. I found two ways to do just that.

1. Scale. A lucky shot, these 2 photographers were packing up as we got to this viewpoint. Taken in Aug 2009.

Our third trek into the Canadian Rockies and our second time stopping at the Athabasca Glacier. In 2008 we’d taken the coach tour out onto the glacier, which gave us the chance to step out onto the ice and even sample the delicious cold meltwater. A year later we spent a few days exploring along the Icefields Parkway, stopping off at the Athabasca Glacier once again, this time just walking to the toe past all the signposts marking its position in recent years.

As we turned to leave, I noticed these two just beginning to walk away after taking a few photos. I changed to the telephoto lens and quickly captured them against the freshly-revealed ice in the background where a chunk had calved off, leaving behind a sheer blue cliff. It remains once of my favourite glacier photos because it lends scale to the immensity of the ice.

2. Wedge Glacier, getting further away each year.

By the end of our first summer of hiking in Vancouver, we had improved our strength and stamina sufficiently to tackle the steep hike to Wedgemount Lake, the site of perhaps the most accessible glacier in the area. That day, our turnaround point was the campground next to the lake, though I now wish we had continued on to the glacier on account of it being much closer than it was in the above photo (taken in 2015). I never expected to witness glacial retreat in my lifetime let alone in just a decade of hiking in BC. I was shocked when I revisited in 2013, and even more so in 2015 where the combined effect of a mild, low-snow winter and a warm dry summer had led to a huge retreat in the Wedge Glacier.

Where only 2 years previously the glacier terminated in an ice cave and a small pool, now the glacier’s snout ended in a much larger lake – indeed, a new glacial lake forming. Still impressive to be so close to this river of ice, but sobering to witness its retreat.

3. Wedgemount Lake, always a stunning place to be.

Lastly, a wider shot of Wedgemount Lake looking towards the Wedge Glacier, again taken in 2015. On our first hike here in 2005, the glacier extended to the obvious rocky outcrop visible near the end of the glacier. In the 1970s, the glacier calved into the lake itself! And that colour – always such a treat to see.

For sure the lake and its surroundings look spectacular on a sunny day such as this. But one of my favourite visits was on a misty, cloudy day in 2011, the rocks dusted in their first skiff of snow. The lake glowed a sage green being the only colour in an otherwise mostly-monochrome scene. A beautiful sight! The other highlight of that day was seeing a mountain goat. 🙂

To hear the mountains Rohr

What else do you do after a 5-day backpacking trip? Why you go on another backpacking trip of course!

It rained all day as we walked out of the Lizzie-Stein divide, and the weather forecast wasn’t looking good for the rest of the week. Our friends had only booked off enough time to do the Lizzie-Stein trip, while we had another 5 days to fill. Feeling a bit fed-up with the weather, we washed and dried all our gear at the Pemberton Valley Lodge (which was an awesome place to stay, by the way), and had a leisurely morning grabbing some breakfast before stopping off at North Arm farm for some extra goodies.

We’d formed a plan to do a little car-camping road trip that would take us into the warmer and drier interior of BC, and had packed the car accordingly. But as we headed across the Duffey Lake Road, we noticed the clouds were clearing over the mountains. That prompted an abrupt change of plan and we pulled off the road, unpacked the car, spread out our tarp, and re-packed our backpacks for a 3-day adventure. We then headed up the road towards the Marriot-Rohr area and had a leisurely late-afternoon hike up to Rohr Lake which was home for the next two nights.

1. Clouds over Mt Currie, as seen from North Arm Farm after savouring some gelato on the swings 🙂

We’ve driven past North Arm Farm so many times before that we were really pleased we had an excuse to stop off and sample some of their goodies. We opted for some gelato that we consumed out in the back yard, and just enjoyed the view, feeling like we were on vacation.

2. Evening light on Rancherie reflected in Rohr Lake. We camped where I’m standing – that’s someone else’s tent 🙂

After a couple of easy hours hauling our packs up to the lake, we sat back and relaxed to watch the sunset. It was so quiet up there, and the water was perfectly still. The stars came out and we crawled into our tent.

3. The Joffre Group as seen from the summit of Mt Rohr.

The following day we set out to re-attempt Mt Rohr, a summit we’d had to turn back from a few years ago due to snow and time constraints. This day we had no such trouble and were thrilled to make it to the top. The view was just incredible, with the peaks of the Joffre Group rising up and dominating the skyline to our south. Mt Rohr instantly became one of our favourite summits.

4. Shades of green and blue.

I always enjoy looking into the next valley when I reach a pass or mountain summit. Here was no exception and we were greeted by this gorgeous pair of lakes, one green and fed by a pocket glacier, the other a deeper greeny-blue. Beyond lay the usual sea of mountains, and a glimpse of Duffey Lake itself. More reasons to love this area!

Seymour shadow selfie

A selfie of sorts – my shadow at the top of Pump Peak (First Peak) on Mt Seymour, looking over to Tim Jones Peak, Third Peak, and beyond to Garibaldi.

Another beautiful day in the mountains, and a mid-week chance to have the summit of Mt Seymour’s First Peak to myself – or so it appears, at least! But perhaps my favourite photos of the day were of patterns in the wind-scoured snow. Maybe I’ll post one or two of those later…